La Maremma – rolling hills, incredible views, clean beaches, and of course, excellent food and wine. This area of southwestern Tuscany was, at one time, a marshland and haven for mosquitos. These days it’s a destination for beachgoers and nature lovers, a place to escape the big cities like Firenze and Siena in a couple hours’ drive. Our destination lay in Vetulonia, a speck of a hilltop village (pop. under 300) located halfway between Follonica and Grosseto. From Vetulonia, the Tyrrhenian Sea can be seen out on the horizon.
Michelin calculated a little over 5 hours and just under 300 miles to get there – not an overly long drive – but we were up and awake by 5 in the morning and on the road an hour later. I’m not an early riser, but this gave us plenty of time for rest stops and a detour for a proper lunch at Osteria l’Ciocio, a Slow Food restaurant in Suvereto. We had no reservations but as you can see, there was a lot of available seating.
Artichokes and fava beans feature prolifically on spring menus at this time of year. When I’m able to find them up north, they look like they’ve traveled a long way. But here in central Italy, they look and taste as if they had been just harvested.
MotH ordered zuppa ai 10 pesci – a soup made with 10 types of raw seafood and tiny diced vegetables. A hot fish broth was poured tableside over the ingredients, and the remaining broth set aside in a small stylish pot for us to add more if needed. I could only identify tiny shrimp, mussels, and some of the white fish, but one spoonful was all it took to realize the number of components that went into it.
I ordered the spaghetti carciofi, cacio e pepe. Thinly slivered artichokes, cheese, and ground pepper in strands of pasta boiled perfectly al dente. We skipped the second main course to keep the meal light, but continued with a platter of pecorino and salumi, artichoke and fava bean salad, and a side dish of steamed fennel and spinach (not shown).
Listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy, Suvereto is also part of the Città del Vino (wine city) association. We came across some curiously-named wine bars like Enoteca dei Difficili (the difficult ones) and delle Carceri (the prisons), and photo-friendly cats roaming the medieval streets.
Wine bars in Suvereto.
Not many people on this Friday afternoon visit, but the cats were everywhere.
And if the wine bars weren’t enough to prove that Suvereto is a place for imbibing, I picked up this leaflet for a wine barrel race at the end of April. Sounds like way too much fun. We left Suvereto after a quick tour of the central square and arrived in Vetulonia by 4 pm.
Up next: what Julia Roberts discovered in Eat, Pray, Love – dolce far niente and La Dolce Vita. Seriously, you will not believe your eyes.